Yalonda M. James/The San Francisco Chronicle/Getty Images
February is Black History Month, when the achievements of Black Americans are recognized and celebrated.
Although the US has come a long way in working toward equity in the workplace and recognizing the work and contributions of Black Americans, there is still a long way to go to achieve full equality. That can be seen in figures like the Black-white wealth gap, Black-white wage gap, high unemployment rates for Black Americans even before the pandemic, and low representation in the c-suites of America's largest companies.
The pandemic also amplified many of those inequities. For instance, the unemployment rate for both Black men and women spiked to rates higher than the rates of white men and women when businesses closed and employers laid off staff. About two years since the start of the pandemic, the unemployment rate for Black Americans is still higher than that of white and Asian Americans — even though the rate has fallen from its pandemic high.
The following 13 charts show disparities and inequalities that still exist for Black Americans.
This ratio looks at share of the population in each race or ethnicity with a job. Although the ratio for Black Americans has increased in the years following the Great Recession, the rate has historically been lower for Black Americans than white, Asian, or Hispanic and Latino Americans.
The employment-to-population ratio for Black Americans plunged in April 2020 when millions of Americans were laid off or had to leave the workforce during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic. Hower, the employment-to-population ratio for Black Americans has since gone up and stood at 57.7% in January 2022.
As seen in the above chart, the ratio for Asian, white, and Hispanic or Latino Americans also took a hit during the pandemic. But the ratios for these populations were higher than the ratio for Black Americans at the start of 2022. The Asian employment-to-population ratio was 62.1% and 59.9% for White Americans.
The labor force participation rate includes people who are working or actively looking for work. This rate is higher for Asian individuals than it is for white or Black individuals.
The policy institute Center for American Progress wrote in an analysis that the gap between white and Black workers for both the employment-population ratio and labor force participation rate has narrowed over time. Right before the pandemic hit, the rate was 63.2% for Black Americans and 63.3% for white Americans in February 2020.
The pandemic impacted labor force participation of Americans as some people left due to school closures, childcare issues, or other reasons. However, rates have since gone up from pandemic lows in April 2020.
In January 2022, the rates for Black and White Americans were both 62.0%.
"We've seen this really encouraging closing of the Black-white labor participation gap, and it appears to have fully converged," economist Bradley Hardy told CNBC. "This is very much a result of the Black labor participation rate rising on a gradual basis, really throughout this pandemic over an almost two year period."
Although unemployment rates skyrocketed early on in the pandemic, they have fallen from those highs. However, the Black unemployment rate is still higher than Asian, Hispanic/Latino, and white unemployment rates. It's important to note that Hispanic or Latino can include any race.
The pandemic had disproportionately affected the employment of Black and Hispanic workers. The Economic Policy Institute wrote in an analysis that Black workers are less likely to be in jobs that can be done remotely and more likely to be in jobs considered essential or in jobs that have experienced major job losses amid the pandemic.
However, Black Americans had a higher unemployment rate even before the devastating impact of the pandemic on workers. Although the unemployment rate for Black Americans fell from 16.8% in March 2010 to 6.0% in February 2020 right before the pandemic, these rates were still higher than the unemployment rate for white Americans.
The Center for American Progress wrote in its analysis that the Black unemployment rate has consistently been about double that of the white unemployment rate since this figure was first tracked. It only was a little less than double the rate of white unemployment around the Great Recession.
Olugbenga Ajilore, senior economist at the Center for American Progress previously told Insider that Black Americans tend to be the first ones to lose their jobs in a recession and last to regain them.
"Black job-seekers face discrimination even when they have an elite college degree, such as one from Harvard or Stanford," S. Michael Gaddis, assistant professor of sociology at UCLA, previously told Insider.
The unemployment rate for Black men has been higher than the rate for Black women and white Americans over time. The unemployment rate for Black women was a few percentage points higher than Black men during April and May 2020, however, but has since fallen below the rate for men.
In January 2022, the unemployment rate of Black women was 2.7 percentage points higher than the unemployment rate for white women.
The number of Black-owned businesses has grown in recent years, especially for Black women. In the most recent survey conducted by the Census Bureau, there were 134,567 Black-owned businesses with employees other than the proprietor, with 29.5% of businesses in healthcare and social assistance.
The pandemic has been especially hard on Black-owned businesses. A New York Fed report reported that the number of active Black business owners fell by 41% between February and April 2020, nearly double the overall closure rate of 22%.
"Data from counties nationwide show Black-owned firms are more likely to be located in COVID-19 hot spots, whereas white-owned firms are less likely to be in the most heavily affected areas," the authors wrote in the report as one of the reasons to explain this drop.
But as The Guardian reports citing research from Robert Fairlie of University of California Santa Cruz, the number of Black businesses owners is nearly 30% higher than the number before the pandemic.
As seen in the above chart, median annual earnings of those who work full-time, year-round varies by race and ethnicity.
Black women made just 64% of what non-Hispanic white men made.
"The wages of Black women are driven down by a number of current factors including gender and racial discrimination, workplace harassment, job segregation and a lack of workplace policies that support family caregiving, which is still most often performed by women," National Partnership For Women and Families wrote in a fact sheet.
Additionally, Black women make 86% of what Black men make when looking at that race alone and not in combination with any other.
The wages of Black workers have historically been lower than those of white workers. This gap has been growing, as noted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, citing research that finds factors like discrimination and opportunity differences contribute to this gap.
Although earnings in the above chart shows Asian women making more than non-Hispanic white men, the National Partnership For Women and Families wrote in another fact sheet that it "excludes some of the lowest-paid groups of AAPI women and is artificially inflated by pandemic-related cutbacks and job losses."
The aggregate household wealth for Black Americans is much smaller than the wealth of white Americans. In the third quarter of 2021, white household wealth was over $100 trillion compared to about $6 trillion for Black households.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland wrote in its research that the income gap is the "primary driver" of the Black-white wealth gap and contributes to this continuation of Black wealth falling behind white wealth.
The share of wealth held by Black households has not changed much over the years. In the third quarter of 1989, white households held 90.6% of the total wealth compared to 3.8% of Black households. In the third quarter of 2021, white households held 83.7% of the total wealth compared to 4.3% held by Black households.
Even among people in the highest income percentile, white families have more wealth than Black families in the same household income bracket, according to an analysis by Brookings of the Federal Reserve data.
"White families receive much larger inheritances on average than Black families," Brookings wrote.
There has been a lack of diversity in the c-suite. The number of Black, Hispanic, and Asian CEOs in Fortune 500 and S&P 500 companies has doubled from 4.3% in 2004 to 9.6% in 2021 per a report from Crist Kolder Associates. However, the number for Black Americans in these companies has not changed much over the past two decades as seen in the above chart.
Additionally, there are more Black CFOs than CEOs at the companies analyzed by Crist Kolder Associates.
"The number of companies with African American [and] Black CFOs nearly doubled in the last year," Crist Kolder Associates wrote, increasing from 12 to 20.
But there is still a long way to go for Black representation at the top of the corporate ladder.
"Even the most advanced companies, with regards to diversity and inclusion, are still struggling to advance Black and brown employees from middle management into more senior positions," Stephanie Creary, assistant professor of management at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania previously told Insider.
The Fortune 500 companies have lacked Black representation over the past decades. There have only been 19 Black CEOs since the 1955 Fortune 500 list according to a 2021 story from Fortune.
In politics, diversity has also increased over the years. Per a previous analysis from Insider, President Joe Biden's Cabinet and White House staff are made up of about 50% people of color.
Year after year, there have been more Black members in Congress, and there have been 50 Black voting members since the 115th in 2017 congress. According to Pew Research, the 117th Congress is the most diverse Congress yet with 59 Black members, excluding non-voting members and commissioners. Pew Research wrote that the majority of non-white members in Congress are Democrats.
We can also look at management and professional occupations to see how many Black Americans hold these roles compared to other demographics. According to an analysis of employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 58% percent of employed Asians worked in management, professional, and related occupations, while 35% of employed Blacks work in this highest-paying occupation group.
Among employed men, 29% of Black men worked in this highest-paying occupational category and among employed women, 40% of Black women worked in this category.
BLS wrote in its analysis of 2020 data that "Blacks made up 12 percent of all employed workers, but were substantially overrepresented in several detailed occupational categories."
Insider reporters wrote in a previous analysis about systemic racism in the US that "lower incomes and higher rates of poverty, combined with difficulties in getting mortgage approval, mean that homeownership rates for Black Americans remain low."
And the Urban Institute found that in the US cities with the largest Black populations, there is a homeownership rate gap between white and Black Americans.
Over the years, homeownership rates have been much higher for white Americans than Black Americans. The homeownership rate for white Americans has been around 75% while Black homeownership has been around between 40% to around 50%. Homeownership for Black Americans hit a low of 40.6% in the second quarter of 2019. In the fourth quarter of 2021 alone, the homeownership rate for non-Hispanic white Americans was about 1.7 times higher than that of Black Americans.
One way to narrow the homeownership gap, according to a recent post from the Urban Institute, could be special purpose credit programs.
"SPCPs for Black homebuyers could alleviate some of the effects of historical unequal treatment in mortgage lending, improve access to credit in Black communities, and narrow the racial homeownership gap," the authors of the post wrote. "But targeting programs to specific people can be difficult for lenders to implement, because they require significant outreach and engagement work and verification of eligible borrowers."
A higher share of white Americans have a bachelor's or graduate degree compared to the share of Black Americans, according to data from the American Community Survey. Of Black Americans who were 25 years or older in 2019, 13.9% had a bachelor's degree, compared to 21.3% of white Americans.
Student debt is also a bigger burden on Black Americans. According to Brookings, Black borrowers graduate with $7,400 more student loan debt on average than white borrowers. Insider previously reported that about 87% of Black students borrow federal loans to attend four-year colleges, compared to about 60% of white students.
Health coverage is especially important amid the pandemic.
"Members of racial and ethnic minority groups are more likely to encounter barriers to getting care, such as a lack of health insurance or not being paid when missing work to get care," William F. Marshall, MD, wrote on the Mayo Clinic.
"Racism may also play a role in health risks. The stress of dealing with racial discrimination can take a toll on your body, causing early aging," Marshall added.
And the uninsured rate for Black Americans is higher than the rate for white Americans, based on 2020 data from the Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement. The uninsured rate for Black Americans was 10.4% in 2020 compared to 5.4% for non-Hispanic white Americans. It's important to note when looking at the above chart that Hispanic could be of any race.